Amaretto Cheesecake Parfaits

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There are many splendid things about summer; letting the warm sun soak through your skin, beloved outdoor barbeques with friends, endless hours spent relaxing by the pool with an icy cocktail and refreshing summertime desserts to replenish your fortitude.  As the temperature of summer escalates, the oven quickly becomes an intolerable presence no matter the sweet succulence that it can yield.  Cool desserts make their long awaited arrival to accompany light summer meals.  Berries and fruit are at their peak of sweetness and are a simple yet delicious indulgence.  Parfaits offer an amazing balance of cool, sweet, creamy and crunchy and are the perfect remedy for even the hottest of days.

These parfaits are about the best thing I’ve ever tasted.  I simply can’t get enough of them!  The individual layers can be prepared ahead of time and assembled just before serving.  I strongly encourage you to give these a try and please invite me over when you do.

Amaretto Cheesecake Parfaits          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 8 servings

Cheesecake custard:

1 cup whole milk

5 Tbsp granulated sugar

4 large egg yolks

2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

3 Tbsp amaretto liqueur

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Macerated strawberries:

1 lb fresh strawberries, sliced

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

4 Tbsp amaretto liqueur

Gingersnap cookies (I like Jules Destrooper brand, found at most grocery stores), crushed

Making the custard:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup whole milk with 3 Tbsp sugar.  Bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat when it just comes to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the cornstarch and the remaining sugar.  Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture whisking constantly.  Pour the combined mixture back into the medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat and add the cream cheese, amaretto and vanilla, whisking until smooth, about 1 minute.  Scrape the custard into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard.  Refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream until medium peaks form.  Gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the chilled custard until well incorporated and there are no visible streaks.

Making the macerated strawberries:

Combine the sliced strawberries, sugar and amaretto in a bowl and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  Try not to eat all of them before assembling the parfaits.

Assembling the parfaits:

Spoon a portion of the custard into individual parfait glasses, followed by a scoop of the macerated strawberries and then the crushed gingersnap cookies.  Continue layering until the parfait glasses are filled.  Serve immediately.

 

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Ginger Peach Crisp

I can’t let summer pass without a post using our native Palisade, Colorado peaches.  They are so juicy and naturally sweet, they really could be considered dessert all on their own…but…

I recently came across the idea to bake in mason jars.  As always, I love the single serving concept for dessert:  Sometimes it’s just better for someone else to decide when you’re supposed to stop (It doesn’t mean that you can’t eat more than one though).  These peach crisps came to mind and they are so delicious!  The great thing about them is that once assembled, you can secure the lid on the jars and freeze them for longer storage.  It makes them perfect for a “ready ahead” dessert for a party.  Simply pull them out of the freezer, place on a cookie sheet & bake.

Marinating the peaches in amaretto is optional, however, it adds a fabulous sweetness and I find that I can’t leave this step out.  The topping really speaks for itself and makes the dessert if you ask me.  I love to serve these crisps with cinnamon ice cream…so good.

How can summer be over??

Ginger Peach Crisp            {Print Recipe}  

Yields: 8 4oz. jars

Filling:

4 cups                                  peaches, sliced (about 4 large)

¼ cup                                   amaretto

1 Tbsp                                   sugar

Topping:

1 cup                                      old fashioned oats

1 cup                                      gingersnaps, crushed

¾ cup + 2 Tbsp                (packed) dark brown sugar

½ cup                                   all-purpose flour

½ tsp                                     ground cinnamon

½ tsp                                     ground ginger

¼ tsp                                     salt

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks)          unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup                                   whole almonds, toasted & chopped

Make the Filling:

Combine the first three ingredients in a medium bowl, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.  While the peaches are marinating, make the topping.

Make the Topping:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray glass mason jars or ramekins with non-stick canola spray.  Place almonds on foil covered cookie sheet and toast in oven until golden brown and the kitchen starts to smell amazing, about 10 minutes.  Let the almonds cool completely and chop.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

Mix the oats, crushed cookies, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon & salt together.  Cut the butter into ½” cubes and combine with the dry ingredients with your hands until the butter is well incorporated.  Add the almonds and stir until thoroughly mixed so that everyone will get lots of them.

Spoon the peaches evenly into the mason jars or ramekins and sprinkle with a generous serving of the topping.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Enjoy!

Coconut Rum Meringues

Does anyone else feel like the holidays are moving way too quickly?  Even as I sit here typing, so many things are running through my head, I find it challenging to concentrate on one thing at a time.  My to-do list has far exceeded the time in which I have to complete it all.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life particularly in the midst of the holidays, but it’s so very important to slow down, crank up the Christmas music, enjoy a cup of warmth (perhaps some spiked hot cocoa?) with something sweet (perhaps some meringues?) in front of the Christmas tree and relish in this wonderful holiday season.  After all, it will come and go before we know it, leaving us with only memories to hold us until next year.  I am as just as guilty as anyone else this time of year…I WAY over commit myself with the excitement of the approaching holiday season and find myself completely overwhelmed!

These coconut meringues and spiked hot cocoa are unbelievably good and with a bit of coconut rum in both, they are sure to help you to relax a little more this holiday season.  These two recipes are my first official published post in Front Row’s Magazine’s December issue and I’m so excited to share them with you!  I have to admit that I consumed about three batches of these amazing cookies before finally discovering the perfect recipe.  They are so light and airy with an amazing texture and go down surprisingly easily (way too easily).  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Please visit www.frontrowmonthly.com to view this recipe as well as the latest in fashion news and entertainment.  My recipe post is on page 16 of the “page-flip” under the section Dish.  I also have recipes published periodically in the Arts & Culture Section of the magazine.

Coconut Rum Meringues          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 30-36 cookies

2 large egg whites

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

2/3 cup superfine sugar

1 ½ tsp coconut rum

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup shredded coconut, toasted

¼ cup almonds, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the whole almonds on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes or until they start smelling wonderful!  I check them after 5 minutes and give them a shake in the pan to ensure even toasting.  Chop the toasted nuts as finely as possible and set aside.  Using the same pan for the shredded coconut, toast the coconut for about 6-8 minutes stirring frequently as it can burn quickly.  Set the coconut aside.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks carefully leaving no trace of egg yolks (this step is easier to do when the eggs are cold).  Store the egg yolks for another use.  Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high until foamy.  Once foamy, add the salt and cream of tartar and continue beating for about 3 minutes or until the egg whites form soft peaks.  Add the coconut rum and vanilla extract and the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.  Fold the coconut and almonds into the egg whites gently with a spatula until fully incorporated.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and using a piping bag, pipe the egg white batter onto the pan in tablespoon portions, 1” high and about 1” apart.  Bake the cookies for 25-30 minutes or until they turn slightly golden brown or the tops crack slightly.  Let cool completely in the pan.  These cookies are best eaten the day that they are made however they will keep several days in an air tight container.

Spiked Hot Cocoa

Yield: 4 mugs

6 oz. chopped milk chocolate

4 oz. heavy cream

12 oz. milk

1 tsp sugar (or to taste)

2 oz. coconut rum

2 oz. amaretto

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot milk over it.  Blend with a whisk until chocolate is completely melted, then add the remaining ingredients.  Pour the hot cocoa back into the saucepan and keep warm until serving.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Happy Holidays!

xoxo

Almond Crème Caramel

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take a magnificent trip to France several years ago before our daughter Ami was born.  We spent a week in Paris and another week in the countryside of the Dordogne region.  Both settings were so amazing, but I have to say, there will always be a special place in my heart for the Dordogne region.  The food was out of this world and the countryside was picturesque to say the least.  We stayed in a quaint little idyllic country inn to relax and recoup from our exciting travels through Paris the prior week.  I’ll never forget waking up every morning and enjoying a wonderful breakfast hand delivered to our room.  The pastries and breads were absolutely divine, but the yogurts, cheese and custards were the most memorable.  In France, they don’t pasteurize their dairy products and you wouldn’t believe what a difference that makes.  It creates the creamiest and most decadent desserts like nothing you’ve ever had.

We paid tribute to the region of Provence this past weekend with our neighbors and had the most perfect French summer meal…do we have the best neighbors or what?!  While our focus wasn’t on the Dordogne Region, it still brought back so many wonderful memories and tastes from our travels.  We feasted on tapenade, caramelized onion spread, homemade French bread, Salade Nicoise and…of course…dessert!  I made an Almond Crème Caramel that was so good it had us speaking French…de ce monde (out of this world)!!  I actually don’t know a lick of French as many of the French locals would be happy to tell you. 🙂  The dessert was very similar to Crème Brulee or even Flan, but the almond infused custard took it WAY over the top.  I’m enjoying some even as I type this post…I just can’t believe how good it is…my waistline seems to love it too.

Vivre la France!

xoxo

shannon

 

Almond Crème Caramel          {Print Recipe}

Yields: 6 servings

Caramel

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

Custard

1 cup sliced almonds

3 cups half-and-half

3 Tbsp light brown sugar

10 large egg yolks

2 large whole eggs

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp Orzata almond syrup*, optional (I used Amaretto instead…yum)

Boiling water

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until a deep-amber caramel forms, about 10 minutes (keep a close eye on it as it will burn quickly if you’re not paying attention).  Immediately pour the caramel into six 1-cup ramekins or custard cups and gently swirl to coat the bottoms and slightly up the sides.  Set the ramekins in a small roasting pan.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  In a medium skillet, toast the almonds over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  In a medium saucepan, heat the half-and-half until steaming.  Remove from the heat and stir in the toasted almonds and brown sugar and let steep (sit in pan with no heat) for 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the eggs and granulated sugar just until combined.  Re-warm the half-and-half mixture over low heat.  Gradually whisk ½ cup of the hot half-and-half into the eggs.  Whisk the egg mixture back into the remaining half-and-half, then strain the custard into a bowl.  Stir the almond syrup or Amaretto into the custard.

Pour the custard into the ramekins.  Carefully set the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and fill the pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the pan with foil.  Bake the custards for 30-40 minutes, or until they are set but still slightly wobbly in the center.  Remove the roasting pan from the oven and discard the foil.  Let the custards cool in the water bath.  Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold the custards, run a thin-bladed knife around each ramekin.  Cover with a dessert plate and invert tapping gently to loosen the custard.  Scrape any remaining caramel over the custards and serve.

The baked custards can be refrigerated in the ramekins for up to 2 days.

*Orzata is a sweet, almond-flavored syrup that is found at liquor stores or gourmet food stores.

Recipe from Food & Wine, Tim Goodell